Friday, January 8, 2010

Guinea Pigs and Compost

Here we go ...
Reprinted from GOG dec 09 newsletter:

Guinea Pigs For Compost - the Case Fur

Guinea pigs are great little animals for generating a lot of really good material to make up a Berkley style hot compost. Guinea pigs go to it.

Guinea pigs are: small and furry, cuddly, make really cute noises, never seem to stop eating, breed rather well, and .. well,, if times are really tough... there are recipes available.... but I keep my six for compost and they have names like Muffin and Tiddles. Additionally, the eating variety are called “short-haired giants” or something, and they do provide a sustainable form of protein for millions in South America where they were iconic in pre-European colonisation time.

If you aren’t able to keep chooks (or a real pig in a pen like in the old days) guinea pigs are useful
for recycling much of the household scraps. But I have found my Guineas to be highly complimentary to keeping chooks - in terms of the type of food scraps and grasses and vegie crop dregs they can eat, which chooks can’t or shouldn’t).

A big bonus is Guineas love to be fed many fresh weeds and grasses (wild diet) so that keeps your hand in, so to speak - imposes a weeding discipline, especially since it’s so hard to ignore their range of very cute noises. But there’s more...

Guinea Pigs - or cavies as the enthusiasts call them - can transform all of the following into magic compost input material :
· newspaper bottom and straw bedding (changed every couple of weeks with a shovel and wheelbarrow) – another discipline that gets you making compost.,
· a lot of food scraps that chooks can’t eat such as watermelon and pumpkin peelings, banana skins, oranges, etc
· forked or woody carrots, parsnips, brassicas going to seed., excess or second best cabbages or other vegies and fruits, that need pulling out, etc
· windfall fruit
· hardened seedy and/or rhizome typed perennial grasses such as phalaris, barley and also grasses of the stringy couch, buffalo and kikouo types..

Guinea Pigs break down their bedding and food into a pre-moistened urine soaked (lower down) mix of newspaper, straw or hay with masses of poo pellets. Judy Cameron informed me it is recognised as being one of the best manures and as you have to clean it out on a regular basis you get all the benefit, unlike chook stuff which largely seems to disappate relative to the inputs.

Guinea Pigs - go to it! Guinea Pigs - go to it now!

Guinea Pigs are goers. And they need to be sexed and separated. They have the ability to conceive at six weeks and can do so while already carrying an unborn litter. I learnt how to sex them off web pics and descriptions... (eventually).. eg: It was Barney who had the pups (babies), and Muffin was the stud boar, alpha male.

I also learnt Guinea Pigs really need around a square metre each for play. (better as a rectangle so they are easier to catch)
And they need: $10 water bottles; vitamin C in their diet (like humans, but unlike rabbits and nearly all other animals); checking for ringworm, mange; compatible personalities and sexes; enclosures that are dog proof, sparrow and raptor proof, hinged lid, non wire floor; hidey holes and boxes for visual security; protection from cold, wet and damp, heat and hot sun.

On the last needs – housing and bedding: I know a few people that lost their Guineas from cold and also in the Black Sat type heat waves, so it’s really important to have a good place to keep them. In the USA they are popular as indoor pets We have had success keeping them on the gravel earth floor in a South facing open six bay shed. They seem happy enough in the subdued light conditions and don’t dig at all. We also have a little cage where they are sometimes taken inside and for cleaning out their main housing.

Be aware with Guinea Pigs I have found you need a fair bit of application and info to keep them healthy, sex them, etc and vet fees don’t go down just because they are small or free. Guinea Pigs are prone to ringworm, a range of contagious skin fungus growths that can spread to humans too. Be aware also that as childrens pets the novelty value doesn’t last and there are foods such as rhubarb, mushrooms, mouldy foods, processed foods, etc you can’t feed them. Potatoes and peelings are of mixed opinion. I’ve never had a problem but the chooks get most of them.

There’s a lot more, of course, which I’m unable to put here, but if anybody wants extra advice on things like making good enclosures then I’m happy to share my experiences., 0410 505 936, ah 5281 5115

GOG’s – go to it.